Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss books on the same theme. For our third annual program, the subject is food—local, sustainable, delicious!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Brief History of the Vietnam War

We are pleased to host Harvard Professor Hue-Tam Ho Tai at the Central Library this Thursday, April 1 at 7:00 p.m., for a talk on the Vietnam War. She will discuss the experiences of Vietnamese on all sides of the conflict from a very unique perspective. The lecture will also be accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation. Hue-Tam Ho Tai is the Kenneth T. Young Professor of Sino-Vietnamese History at Harvard University. Please join us for this exciting and informative lecture on the Vietnam War.

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Novel on Vietnam War

A new novel has just arrived that deserves a worthy mention. Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, is Karl Marlantes' first novel. Thirty years in the making, this novel makes a grand entrance into the genre of Vietnam War fiction. To reserve a copy from the library, click here.

Due to the efforts of such soldier-writers as James Webb and Tim O'Brien, the Vietnam novel has come of age, and this is a worthy addition to the genre. Marlantes, a former marine who was awarded the Navy Cross in Vietnam, sets his debut in Quang-Tri Province, at an American fire-support base. The environment is painted in vivid, intense hues: the fog malevolent, the bugs and leeches constant torturers, and jungle rot universal. The enemy is always near and often unseen until firefights explode with shocking savagery. But this novel isn't flawless. The major characters fill traditional roles: the young, inexperienced lieutenant; his grizzled, tough sergeant; and the cowardly griper. The contempt shown by the soldiers for the supposedly uncaring brass and politicians often seems over the top. Still, the characters are, if traditional, certainly believable. This tough, unsentimental saga is filled with frightened men; most endure and achieve a certain nobility in spite of themselves. An engrossing chronicle of men at war.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2009 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
Thirty years in the making, Marlantes's epic debut is a dense, vivid narrative spanning many months in the lives of American troops in Vietnam as they trudge across enemy lines, encountering danger from opposing forces as well as on their home turf. Marine lieutenant and platoon commander Waino Mellas is braving a 13-month tour in Quang-Tri province, where he is assigned to a fire-support base and befriends Hawke, older at 22; both learn about life, loss, and the horrors of war. Jungle rot, leeches dropping from tree branches, malnourishment, drenching monsoons, mudslides, exposure to Agent Orange, and wild animals wreak havoc as brigade members face punishing combat and grapple with bitterness, rage, disease, alcoholism, and hubris. A decorated Vietnam veteran, the author clearly understands his playing field (including military jargon that can get lost in translation), and by examining both the internal and external struggles of the battalion, he brings a long, torturous war back to life with realistic characters and authentic, thrilling combat sequences. Marlantes's debut may be daunting in length, but it remains a grand, distinctive accomplishment. (Apr.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Conversation with Tim O'Brien

On Wednesday, March 24, 2010, Tim O'Brien took part in a discussion with seniors at Washington D.C.'s Cardozo High School to commemorate the 20th anniversary of The Things They Carried. Iraq Veteran and author Nate Fick (One Bullet Away) moderated the conversation, and read additional questions submitted by students across the country. Over 300 schools broadcast the event live.

An archived version of the event will be available here on Monday March 29, 2010.*

He was also interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered. That interview will be available online at approximately 6pm this evening. To listen, click here.

*Info is courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books

Monday, March 22, 2010

Somerville Reads Kicks Off This Sunday!

We are super excited about our kick off event this Sunday, March 28, at Arts at the Armory! The event will be from 4-8pm and there is a lot to look forward to: Vietnam war-era music by The Band That Time Forgot, free food, dancing, and socialzing with community friends. We hope you will spread the word and bring your family and friends with you as we celebrate Somerville Reads!

Arts at the Armory is located at 191 Highland Ave in Somerville. For directions and parking information, please click here.

Have you picked up a copy of The Things They Carried yet? Copies are available for loan at all three libraries in Somerville, including books-on-cd. You can also request them online using your library card. Porter Square Books also has copies for sale, if you'd like to have your own copy. Other goodies to look for - buttons, bookmarks, and a program of events - are all available at the library.

Tim O'Brien in Harvard Square This Week

Tim O'Brien will be speaking at the First Parish Church Meetinghouse this Thursday, March 25, at 7:00 pm. The event is hosted by the Harvard Book Store and tickets are $5.00.

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Additional Resources

We hope you are interested in pursuing further resources inspired by The Things They Carried. Included below is a link to a pathfinder to get you started. There are numerous directions to go into with the subject of Vietnam, so keep in mind this is only a start. All resources listed on the pathfinder are available at the Central Somerville library and when listed, at the East and West branches as well. Please feel free to print out the list and bring it with you to the library. Hard copies of the pathfinder will also be available at the library.

If you would rather work online, there are live links on the left hand side of this blog for easy searching and requesting. We hope these lists will be useful and give you another way to connect to Somerville Reads and The Things They Carried.

To view the Vietnam Pathfinder, click here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Event Schedule

Here are the events we have planned so far. Stay tuned for updates!

  • March 28, 2010, Arts at the Armory (191 Highland Ave), 4:00pm: Program Kick-off, including free food and festive war-era music by The Band That Time Forgot
  • April 1 - April 30, Central Library Auditorium: Somerville high school student art exhibit, in response to the themes of war, the Vietnam war, and The Things They Carried
  • April 1, 2010, Central Library, 7:00 pm: Lecture on the history and culture of Vietnam by Harvard Professor Hue-Tam Ho Tai
  • April 5, 2010, Central Library Auditorium, 4:00 pm: Opening reception for Somerville high school student art exhibit
  • April 8, 2010, East Branch Library (115 Broadway), 7:00 pm: Community read-aloud from The Things They Carried
  • April 11, 2010, Sherman Market (22 Union Square), 2:00 pm: Sherman Market invites you to share what you carry in your bag. Come weigh your bags and discuss the items they contain
  • April 13, 2010, Porter Square Books (25 White Street), 7:00 pm: Book discussion led by author Margot Livesey
  • April 15, 2010, Sherman Cafe (257 Washington Street), 7:00 pm: Book discussion group at Sherman Cafe's local coffee shop atmosphere
  • April 17, 2010, Central Library, 2:00 pm: Book discussion led by Tufts English Professor Michael Downing, titled Stories Can Save Us - We'll briefly review the book's history and its influential place in classrooms, engage each other's personal responses, and entertain wide-ranging speculation and questions about the inventive structure and elusive truth of this haunting book.
  • April 24, 2010, Central Library: Film Festival, featuring "Good Morning Vietnam," "The Quiet American," and "Born on the 4th of July."